Ambivalentertainment (2013)

Image courtesy of the New York Times

Image courtesy of the New York Times

Posterity. Temerity.

Why Is Keith Olbermann Yelling at Me and Can the Sports World Be Saved

Keith Olbermann is a talking head.

The mouth attached spews bookish and worldly opinions that occasionally rankle the average you, me, him and her.

Having ironed out his differences with the Worldwide Sports tyrants, Olbermann returned to ESPN back in mid-July, as reported by the network. A cloud of turmoil tends to hang over KO, but apparently people still like to hear him spout four-dollar words about how awful the (in this case, sports-) world can be.

Many viewers and armchair pundits wonder if this is ESPN’s desperate attempt to regain its soul or credibility. Or something.

The NCAA and pro sports have been big businesses for some time now, but not so long ago, sports were more of a delightful diversion.

In the mid-90s, the heyday of ESPN, Sportscenter was must-see TV. Olbermann, Dan Patrick, Chris Berman, Charley Steiner—and later Craig Kilborn and Karl Ravech—gave us humor and savvy along with our highlights.

A break from all the awfulness of the modern age, if you will.

Maybe times were simpler then, but maybe we were better versions of ourselves too.

So I’ve tried to listen to Olbermann v-log about the day’s sports travesties over a handful of times now. His rants, once so pithy, now often amount to white noise. There is nothing we haven’t heard before.

Johnny Manziel is a jerk. The bigwigs at the NCAA, the NFL and many genetically modified ballplayers are bigger jerks but we, the slack-jawed sports fans, are the biggest jerks of the lot. We are the suckers born every minute.

Wait a moment.

In the late 80s and 90s, some of us were busy buying up 75 percent of the baseball card market in the Midwest. We were convinced we were going to get a huge return on our investment some day. At the very least, we thought we were learning something about the Invisible Hand market that proved to be such a brilliant economic system.

Others, in their infinite wisdom, suggested these mass-produced trinkets weren’t worth the card stock they were printed on.

We bought the illusion they were selling. That’s what sports are, the permanent land of make believe, as long as we willfully suspend that old nagging burden of truth.

Olbermann opens his show with the day’s god-awfulness, usually somewhere in the territory between Mayweather being escorted into the ring by Justin Bieber and a syruped-up Lil Wayne and the latest NFL gaffe.

And yelling.

There are some baseball highlights, maybe some world football and NFL drops, then a crappy guest, a Worst Person in the Sports World segment, then a self-deprecating/semi-masturbatory “Keith from the glory days” vignette. Then what?

More yelling.

The other night, I caught the closing segment of the show and there was something good about it. I can’t remember it so clearly now. It was a human interest theme, with something redeeming in it. These moments are fleeting these days.

Video killed the radio star. ESPN ruined sports. The Internet made journalism obsolete and the Gawkers of this world are sanctimonious jerkfaces. Yes, this writer is holier-than-thou about websites that are holier-than-thou.

The smug market is recession-proof. Print it.

I found a good companion tweet to embed with this editorial. It was on @KeithOlbermann’s feed. From a fan. It started with, “Keith I love & respect u…” but proceeded to call out ESPN for their hype honkeytonk. It has vanished now. Olbermann or his twitter handler deleted it.

Obviously, he’s not a completely objective journalist. He’s just as much an image-conscious, selfie-taking instagrammer as the rest of us.

Olbermann is a man of the people though. He suffers from the lingering effects of a post traumatic brain injury, something many former NFLers and others grapple with daily. His stance against Pete Prisco’s tough-guy meat-head routine was admirable (concussions are bad news).

It’s not Olbermann we’re mad it, but rather the unseen keymasters of the almighty snark box that have trumped all semblance of human decency.

We all tire of cynicism, but it is harder than ever to find the positives. Sports always had that silver lining: Cinderella stories, uplifting moments and triumph over adversity.

Sure those storylines still exist, but it’s hard to find them among Free Hernandez memes and the daily gotcha moment of some 12-year old Pop Warner kid getting laid out by a kid Urban Meyer already has on his blue-chip list.

Believe me, I want to relax, enjoy the NFL/MLB playoffs/EPL on NBC like any warm-blooded mammal. But I can’t, until we find a way to decelerate the wheel of progress that has run roughshod over our metaphysical makeups:

Mary Shelley was onto something. So was E.M. Forster.

I’m not saying we should get rid of our cellphones, laptops, tablets, 3D TVs, etc. I am saying we should put them down from time to time. Pick up a book. Talk to our friends in person. We have become an overconnected, over-informed bunch of Idiocrats.

Please continue to play fantasy football and root for your favorite team. You can even leave your framed autographed A-Rod jersey on the wall.

One check and one balance, that’s all I ask for. Stop this crazy thing for a minute or two, slow it on down a smidge.

Keith Olbermann is one such check (and despite my Howard Beale-isms to the contrary, he is a brilliant journalist attempting to fight the good fight) but the balance has shifted so far into the morally decrepit zone, his message gets muffled.

That and ESPN/Fox Sports are closer to the Legion of Doom than the Hall of Justice.

We are all responsible for the media monster that ravages our cities like King Kong. Yes, I’m using the medium I am attacking, but the trolls put flame to my parchment scroll and they built a Buffalo Wild Wings where the town square used to be.

Maybe if we all find our humanity, killjoys will stop writing lengthy editorials—and perhaps our man Olbermann would have less to yell about.

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